BBQ Beef Sandwiches with Bacon Cheese Slaw

BBQ Beef Sandwiches with Bacon Cheese Slaw

Nothing like a little blogging break, huh?  It wasn’t planned, exactly, but the combination of finally moving my Mac back up to the office from where it sat for a few weeks on the kitchen counter, and a very busy weekend left me completely not interested in climbing the stairs to even check email for the past few days.

We celebrated my middle son’s birthday last Thursday, then went to the races at Del Mar with my mother and father-in-law for a belated Father’s Day present.  Although we make it to the races at least once each year, we’d never made reservations at one of the restaurants in the grand stand so really enjoyed having someone take our orders for drinks and food.  Plus, my husband won big twice (pigs must have been flying that day…) so that made things even better.  Saturday we met friends for dinner downtown and then enjoyed the Summer Pops at the embarcadero — courtesy of a client who couldn’t make it that evening.  We were so busy talking on our walk from the restaurant to the performance, we sort of got lost, and had to hire a couple of those bicycle taxis to get us back on track.  Fun, but too much money.  I don’t know how those guys stay in business.  Finally, Sunday, I made a bon voyage dinner for a niece who is leaving for college this week.  She’s an amazing softball player who was recruited by Notre Dame and has a full scholarship. Talk about the best kind of pay off for a mom and dad who have devoted all their family’s time to softball for the last 13 years.  Wow.

In spite of the fun, I’m whipped.  So whipped in fact, that when I sat down at my Mac yesterday, I only made it past uploading the photos (and dumping nearly 700 from my files…) and chose instead to head out to my patio where I raked and trimmed, then planted for most of the day.  The sun was out, a beautiful breeze kept everything from getting too hot, and I was able to unwind.  Fun is not supposed to make you tired is it?  There’s just something wrong with that.

So yesterday, we had leftovers for dinner. Talk about perfect!  There was enough of the BBQ Beef & Slaw to have another round of sandwiches.  I love Sunday leftovers for Monday dinner because there’s no mess, and most of the time, the food can be even more tasty after sitting in the fridge for a night.  This is a great meal for outdoor get togethers, tail gate parties if you’re a football fan, or just dinner with family, because this is slow cooking at its best, and serious comfort food.  Much of it can be made ahead of time, so it’s also excellent when you want to make like *insert current kitchen idol here* and have everything perfect when your guests arrive.  Of course, that would not be me.  Ever.

BBQ Beef Sandwiches with Bacon Cheese Slaw

About two hours before the meat goes into the oven, make the spice rub first.

Spice Rub Ingredients

1 c. dark brown sugar
2 T ground ancho chile*
2 T ground California chile*
1 T Old Bay seasoning
1-1/2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. coarse kosher salt
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin


  1. *Slice open 4 dried ancho chilis and 4 dried California chilis, trim off the tops, and discard with the seeds.
  2.  Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat until hot, then press dried chiles on the surface of the pan just until you smell the chili, or hear a snapping, then flip and do the same.  This should take only a  few seconds on each side.
  3. With the processor running, and keeping the two kinds of chili separate, drop the chiles into the processor and run, pulsing occasionally, until well-ground.  This takes about 5 minutes of continuous running.
  4. Empty into a small container and set aside.  You should have about 8 T of ancho chiles.
  5. Wipe out the bowl of the processor and repeat with the California chiles. The pieces will not grind as small as with the ancho chiles, and more pulsing will be necessary. You will have about 2 T of California chiles, depending on the size of the chiles you used.

Measure out all ingredients into a container that can be sealed and mix well. Set aside.

For the Beef…

23 lb. chuck roasts


  1. Salt and pepper all sides of both roasts, then sprinkle 2 T over each side and rub in.
  2. Cover well, and let sit at room temperature at least 30 minutes, but not more than 2 hours.

While the meat is sitting, prepare the braising liquid.

Braising Liquid Ingredients

3 c. dark brown sugar
1 c. white vinegar
1 c. unfiltered apple juice
1 c. beef broth
2 lg. celery stalks, chopped
2 med. onions, chopped
1-1/2 c. chopped cilantro
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tsp. coarse kosher salt


Add all ingredients to a large pitcher and set aside until ready pour over meat.

Now make the barbeque sauce.

Barbeque Sauce Ingredients

4 T ground ancho chiles (see above) steeped in 1 cup hot water 30 minutes
2 c. water
6 T pomegranate syrup or glaze

1-1/2 c. dark brown sugar
3/4 c. unsweetened pineapple juice

1/2 c. light molasses

12 oz. tomato paste


  1. Put 1 cup water in the microwave to heat for 1 minute and drop 4 T of the ground ancho chilis into it to steep for 30 minutes.
  2. Mix all other ingredients in a medium-sized sauce pan and set aside until the chili has had time to flavor the water.
  3. Add the chili water to the pan, and stir well, heating over medium-high heat until the brown sugar dissolves.
  4. Reduce the heat to low, keeping at a simmer until it is reduced to about 5 cups, about 15-20 minutes.
  5. Add 4 T of the reserved spice rub, and simmer 10 minutes more, checking occasionally.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste, or more spice rub depending on you preferences.  Set aside.

Now roast the beef.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and position a rack in the lower third of the oven.

  1. In a roasting pan large enough to sit the roasts side by side, pour 2 T olive oil, and on the stove top, brown each roast on all sides until golden, about 4 minutes for each side.  Don’t forget the sides.
  2. When the roasts are brown, give the braising liquid a stir to make sure the sugar has dissolved and pour over the roasts.
  3. Cover the roasting pan completely with foil and roast for 2 hours.
  4. After 2 hours is up, flip the roasts (they will already be very tender…) replace the foil, and roast for 2 more hours until meat falls into shreds when poked.  
  5. Cool uncovered in the braising liquid for up to 1 hour.

Now make the crunchy slaw and the corn.

Crunchy Slaw Ingredients

8 bacon slices, cooked and chopped
3/4 c. Ranch Dressing
2 T red wine vinegar
1 T honey
3/4 medium head green cabbage, shredded
1 yellow pepper, seeded and chopped
1 orange pepper, seeded and chopped
1/4 head radicchio, shredded

1/2 c. crumbled blue cheese


  1. In a large bowl, mix the cabbage, peppers, and radicchio.
  2. Sprinkle bacon and blue cheese over.
  3.  In a small jar, add the Ranch Dressing, vinegar, and honey, put the lid on it and shake well.
  4. Pour over the slaw and mix well.   Set aside.

Corn Ingredients

kernels scraped from 6 ears of corn
3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
2 T olive oil
3 T cilantro, chopped
Juice from 1 lime
salt & pepper


  1. Heat a clean, dry cast iron skillet, over medium heat.  When it is hot, add the corn.
  2. Let it sit until it is really sizzling, and stir from time to time making sure it’s browning nicely, but isn’t burning.
  3. Pour over the olive oil and stir, then add the lime juice, stirring again.
  4. Toss in the cilantro, and season.  Set aside.

Now prepare the beef for the sandwiches.

  1. Remove roasts from the liquid and place in a large sauce pan, shredding it into small pieces.  Then, pour the braising liquid into a food processor and process until smooth.
  2. Pour into the pan of shredded beef and add 2-1/2 c. of the barbeque sauce to the pan.
  3. Gently mix the ingredients, and heat over a low flame until hot and ready to serve.

Split 12 (or up to 16) hoagie or kaiser style buns — toast if you want — and spoon beef mixture over.  Add some of the crunchy slaw over the top.  Serve with the corn on the side, or, if you’re curious, over the top of the slaw.  It’s crunchy, it’s sweet, it’s tangy, and it’s pretty messy.  But it’s very, very good.

Remove chile stems and seeds


Grind the chiles in a coffee or spice grinder


Cover the beef with the ancho chile rub


Braising liquid ingredients


Finished beef chuck after roasting slow and low


Skillet corn is a perfect side.


The bacon cheese slaw is so good over the BBQ beef


A perfect mix of crunchiness with spicy tender beef


Recipe Notes

  • This really sounds quite involved as I went back through it.  But I’ve laid it out so that it’s doable in steps.  For example, I got everything ready, then marked the recipe so my husband could get the roasts in the oven while I went shopping (some time at the nursery to buy plants).  Just make sure to count those hours because they definitely add up in this recipe.  We planned to eat at 6PM, so had the beef out of the fridge around 11 am and in the oven around 1:00.
  • The original recipe, featured in the September ’08 issue of Bon Appetit can be found here.  The changes I made were purely for convenience — mainly cilantro instead of parsley in the braising liquid, pomegranate glaze with water instead of pomegranate juice, and white vinegar and apple juice instead of cider vinegar.  The briskets I had to choose from were very small, and chuck is a cut of meat I’m very familiar with (8,000 pot roasts…) so knew it would work just fine.
  • I ground my own chilis because I had them.  Remember that Mexican Feast we had not too long ago?  Well, I ended up with lots of chilis, so am finding reasons to use them.  You can find ancho and chipotle powder (NOT chili powder…) with some searching, and interestingly enough, Tyler Florence has a recipe for ancho “powder” here, but it’s more of a rub.  All the powder should have in it is anchos.
  • Although I enjoy a good BBQ sandwich, I prefer mine more tart than sweet.  This was very sweet, as in, the entire recipe calls for 2  lbs. of brown sugar if my math is correct.    The flavor is so intense, I didn’t mind, but that’s because the slaw on this is what makes the sandwich.  You can actually taste that blue cheese, which was really surprising.  The slaw evens out the sweetness — thankfully.
  • Oh, and the Ranch Dressing was used on the slaw because my husband refuses to eat anything with mayonnaise in it.  Don’t even get me started with the idea that Ranch Dressing is essentially mayo based.  I know that.  In fact, I’ve explained it to him, but logic doesn’t win on this one.
  • The skillet corn is something I’ve been playing around with since spring.  Sometimes I add jalapenos or green onions — no matter — it’s really delicious.
  • Yes, there’s dessert, too, but that will have to wait until tomorrow.  That page up there gives you a hint, though…
Not the best way to keep notes on an adapted recipe.